What Are Antibiotics?
Before scientists first discovered antibiotics in the 1920s, many people died from minor bacterial infections, like strep throat. Surgery was riskier, too. But after antibiotics became available in the 1940s, life expectancy increased, surgeries got safer, and people could survive what used to be deadly infections.
What Antibiotics Can and Can’t Do
Most bacteria that live in your body are harmless. Some are even helpful. Still, bacteria can infect almost any organ. Fortunately, antibiotics can usually help.
These are the types of infections that can be treated with antibiotics:
- Some ear and sinus infections
- Dental infections
- Skin infections
- Meningitis (swelling of the brain and spinal cord)
- Strep throat
- Bladder and kidney infections
- Bacterial pneumonias
- Whooping cough
Some antibiotics work on many different kinds of bacteria. They’re called “broad-spectrum.” Others target specific bacteria only. They’re known as “narrow-spectrum.”
Since your gut is full of bacteria — both good and bad — antibiotics often affect your digestive system while they’re treating an infection. Common side effects include:
Occasionally, you may have other symptoms, like: